Picture At Wide Receiver Still Fuzzy Heading Into Preseason Finale

For all the talk and attention that has surrounded Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Justin Brown, there has really been very little to show for it when you turn on the preseason footage.

Brown went without a catch—perhaps even without a target, without having been able to fully review the game yet—last night in the Steelers’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and that was with having started in the slot in place of Lance Moore.

Brown had ample opportunity to work with the first-team offense and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but he came away with nothing to show for it.

And now suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a no-brainer that there will be a roster spot ready and waiting for him come September.

Especially after veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey finally got his opportunity to showcase his talents last night, who missed much of training camp and the first preseason game due to a concussion.

Playing with backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, Heyward-Bey caught three passes for 54 yards, second only to Antonio Brown’s 59 yards to lead all receivers in the game. That included a 33-yard touchdown on a go route to give the Steelers a faint spark of life late in the game.

Rookie Martavis Bryant also caught a touchdown pass from Gradkowski in the final minutes of the game and added a 25-yard reception earlier, which included some run after the catch that showcased his speed.

Bryant, as an unpolished mid-round draft pick, is pretty much a lock to make the roster behind the top three wide receivers, but everything after that is still up in the air. Neither Justin Brown nor Heyward-Bey are guaranteed a roster spot.

It’s possible that neither, or both, could be kept, dependent upon them showing that they’re worth being kept in the final preseason game. Considering Dri Archer is also in the equation, however, carrying six receivers is not as valuable, and is something they don’t often do to begin with.

Brown still has practice squad eligibility. He should see a lot of playing time in the preseason finale. If he doesn’t offer much to get excited about, he may be forced to use that eligibility again after spending all of his rookie season there.

He still must be wary of other challengers such as Derek Moye and Kashif Moore, who have accomplished about as much statistically this preseason as he has.

A lot is at stake at the wide receiver position for the Steelers heading into the preseason finale. Not only are there jobs to be won and lost, a decision must be made as to how many jobs are worth retaining. I’m not sure that last night’s game helped make the situation clearer.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Steelers12328882

    Justin Brown is the Chris Carter of WRs. Give me DHB all day.

  • Aric Brown

    Id be shocked if Brown wasnt the number 5… and even more shocked if any of the mentioned receibers make the roster aside from DHB

  • Aric Brown

    DHB was my original pick for the 5th spot but Brown severelY outplayed him at camp which opened a lot of eyes on what could be, as opposed to DHB where you already know what you have

  • steeltown

    Did DHB played multiple WR positions in camp?

    It’s weird to be saying this, but maybe J.Brown will be relegated to the PS again it’s not like he’s shown anything that would make other Teams want to sign him, of course neither did Toney Clemons a couple yrs ago

  • Steelers12328882

    He didn’t get a chance at camp. He was always running with the 2nd group and the concussion set him back.

  • Aric Brown

    I completely understand that, but Brown stepped up at camp in DHBs absence and it didnt go unnoticed

  • eric

    Camp hero…. that counts as? He did the same thing last year. I want to see it during games. DHB showed the speed last night. He is a far better option as the 5 guy. He can play special teams as well. The argument for Brown over DHB is nonexistent, like Brown in games.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Tons of WR’s out there, and a huge rookie class, so I doubt any of the Steelers PS WR’s will get picked up. That’s my take on the early part of the season. Later, once teams suffer a few injuries, anything can still happen.

    This kind of makes a case for Justin Brown to the PS. But I am not trusting DHB. Personally, I would try JB as he might be able to make the tough catchand block better than any other WR.

    And as a sidenote: Jordan Matthews is going to be a stud, and it will be good for him to be in a system like the Eagles. Love that guy.

  • nicolaisim

    Looks to me like he’s not getting seperation and really isn’t quick enough. Seems like there’s a DB breathing down his neck all the time – it’s hard to give a guy like that targets

  • sweetleb

    a.brown, moore, wheaton, bryant, bey, could keep 6 but probably not. also wheaton better get it in gear or bryant or bey might get some first team snaps.

  • steeltown

    Ben was throwing behind and over guys all night.. there’s no one close to Wheatons ability on this Team

  • sweetleb

    your right about wheatons abilty, but the the steelers need production and not much of that has been seen of wheatons so far. he will get 4-6 games to get it in gear.

  • Jacque Strappe

    DHB’s speed is palpable. There just aren’t guys who run like that. And he’s not been invisible on special teams either. I have changed my tune, not just based on last night’s perfomance. I think at this point, DHB is the pick considering Brown has PS eligibility.

  • steeltown

    Why not at this point, keep em both

  • Steelers12328882

    Yep. That 1st pass thrown Brown’s way he was supposed to make an adjustment to the outside but never recognized it. Ben was pissed and it ended the drive. Although, it was the 2nd or 3rd pressure Beachum had allowed on Ben on that opening drive.

  • Sure, J. Brown had a good camp, by all reports. But so what? I’ll take DHB, who could thrive as the fourth/fifth WR (depending on Bryant’s development) if given the opportunity. Brown can go back to the PS and work to move up later this year or next.

    But here’s the thing: Ben just wasn’t good last night, and that made the WRs look bad as well (though, admittedly, they made mistake of their own as well). But when it comes down to the regular season, I’m pretty comfortable with Ben leading a passing game that includes Antonio, Wheaton, and Moore as the Top 3 WRs, hopefully DHB coming in to stretch the field with his speed and athleticism, and Bryant taking the time to develop but making an impact if used strategically. And then there’s also Heath, of course, who was really good last night, as well as Archer in the Sproles/Woodhead role and even Will Johnson, who could be a great asset in the passing game if used properly. So sure, maybe nothing’s all that much clearer after last night, but it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.

  • steeltown

    agreed.. people are forgetting Ben had an off night as well

  • Paddy

    Its the game performance that counts, what they do in practice is immaterial. J Brown hasn’t shown anything when the lights are on

  • Paddy

    So what

  • Eric MacLaurin

    keep both & trade Moore.

  • steeltown

    Lance Moore?

  • Eric MacLaurin


  • Eric MacLaurin


  • steeltown

    I disagree, the fact that we’re talking about DHB or J.Brown is not good and the fact that Bryant is soo raw, we need L.Moore

  • 6 ring circus

    you tell ’em! what about 84?!

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I like JB and DHB. I don’t think Moore is a significant upgrade even this year and that is if he’s an upgrade at all. How is Moore earning a spot without playing better than the other guys?

    We’re talking about a lot of stuff today but after a game like last night it’s almost all complete over reaction. I don’t believe any of you saw anything from the WR’s that cost them a job and their inability to flash in a game means nothing at all.

    The career decisions people want to make here based on 3 or 4 pre season plays gets a little silly.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Not sure how anyone can make an assessment of the receivers when Ben was scatter shot all night. He looked terrible. Then you have his backups which are all over the place as well. No pretty.

    Looks like Ben had made a decision that he was going to get Wheaton the ball regardless. Biggest problem I have with Justin was the lack of separation from his defender. That’s a big one. Its going to be hard to make it unless you can play smart like Cotch…..Boy do we miss that dude.

  • steeltown

    Exactly, a lot of jumping the gun here. But in regards to Moore, by all accounts he’s meshed with Ben very well in camp and after not seeing him play last night im definitely not ready to write him off. He’s savvy vet and we need that right now.

  • Tone Budd

    Honestly, with the game that DHB had, I think there should be some discussion in starting him with AB. I think Lance Moore is perfect for slot and AB and DHB on the outside , with some reps from MW and MB. I don’t think any of our young receivers are ready.

  • SteveM2

    Todd Haley also was pissed off about it, and hollered at Brown afterwards.

  • bustedknuckles


  • steeltown

    That’s a little overreaction, DHB played against PHI scrubs

  • Tone Budd

    I understand steeltown, but to be honest MW and JB have had an extra year in system and still showing nothing. Lets not forget also that DHB has started in this league for TWO different teams with two different coaching staffs, MW and JB cant even make plays to seize the job. That’s all im saying

  • cencalsteeler

    In all fairness to the wr corps, they didn’t get much help from Ben. It was very similar to the discussion last week when Landry was throwing off target. How can J.Brown do anything when the ball isn’t thrown to him. That’s not on him by any means.
    The concerning thing to me is Bryant. I know he’s raw and everything, but it looks like he struggles catching the ball. There is no natural catching talent with him. It looks forced. There is no concentration. It looks like he is concentrating on drawing a penalty as opposed to fighting for the ball. Reminds me of Renaldo Neamiah (?). A wr body without the athletic catch passing ability. I recall 2 or 3 passes that went through his hands and one he should have high pointed, but didn’t and the defender broke it up. He is much rawer than I expected him to be.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I’m not writing him off or saying he’s bad or wouldn’t help or anything of the sort.

    My point is just that he doesn’t offer enough above and beyond the 6th guy that I would keep him given the age and salary. I would prefer Brown for example and would rather have Brown and the money Moore earns invested somewhere else.

  • Weiss Chad

    He had all the time in the world to pass the ball also

  • cencalsteeler

    I think people are overreacting to DHB catching 2 balls. At that point of the game, it was playground football anyways. Heck, even DHB looked surprised after catching that td.

  • steeltown

    I disagree.. he’s a much better and a far more polished receiver than anyone beyond the #2 position

  • JohnB

    Yeah im not ready to jump ship on DHB yet. I think a lot of his poor play in Oakland was due to poor QBs. Not saying he’s not a Sweed, but I’d like to see Ben throw to him a couple times. I was hoping Brown would pop though.

  • steeltown

    The entire Offense stunk except Miller and AB… Ben was erratic all night and the OL looked overmatched.

    DHB over JB, sure I could see that considering JB has practice squad eligibility but to say DHB should start opposite AB because he caught 3 passes against 2nd and 3rd stringers in a preseason game is a little crazy.

  • steeltown

    He had some amazing athletic catches in college… I think he’s just adjusting to the NFL

  • cencalsteeler

    This reminds me of last year. Derek Moye’s preseason td catch, and now DHB.

  • Tone Budd

    I understand what your saying believe me , but MW or JB starting is not gonna do it. There body language also doesn’t look good. I have seen DHB start in this league MW cant beat out lance moore to be honest with you , and JB cant get off the PRACTICE SQUAD. I would just feel more comfortable with 2 starting caliber wrs instead of hoping MW gets it . That’s a path straight to another 8-8 season , that s just my opinion

  • Tone Budd

    Bryant looks like Plex when he first came, not knowing how to use his height to help him

  • Bill

    It was well known that Bryant was really raw when he was drafted. He likely drops some balls because he’s thinking about what he’s supposed to be doing most of the time. We need some coaches that can coach green, raw players to competency. For example:100 high points (separate from other practice) as often as possible during practice. The need for such dedicated work is the Steelers’ poor performance in the red zone. Most of us thought Bryant would end up on the band squad, but because of the lack of production from anyone not named A. Brown or Miller and the physical traits of Brant, I would have him on the roster. Staff: do your job and coach him up!

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Much better and more polished? We’ll just have to disagree on this one.

    He’s older, more experienced, safer to bet on and obviously proven that he was a good receiver.

    If JB was the number 3 I think he would put up pretty comparable numbers, if not better, while providing better blocking and occasionally taking the attention of two defenders. He also provides something that AB. Wheaton and Moore don’t offer which is some size.

    I’m very confident JB will be better next year and beyond as well. You would basically pass on developing a good tall WR prospect because you think a 3rd little guy is more helpful this year. I disagree with both assumptions and we haven’t even gotten to the help you get redeploying Moores cap space.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Who told you pre season game performance is what counts?

    A drop or two in a preseason game is what you consider to matter as opposed to weeks of practice and your entire resume?

    cute soundbite but complete baloney.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    You want to call JB a camp here while giving DHB a job for 2 catches against 2nd and 3rd stringers in the last few minutes of a blow out?

    Are you the girl from the back of the car?

  • steeltown

    Agree to disagree.. I’ll go with a proven commodity every time. Like you said, JB has a chance to be a solid player, in the future. Im keeping them both one way or the other.

  • steeltown

    Besides 84, I think that goes without saying

  • Eric MacLaurin

    well shoot. I can’t let that one go unchallenged. You’re getting a little too gung ho in support of your point.

    You will not go with the proven quantity every time or you would never draft.

    You also can’t keep both of them. It isn’t fair to argue that keeping both is better than keeping one.

    Would you rather cut Moore or JB if you had to cut one? My whole point was that JB is more valuable because Moore is just a poor mans AB or Wheaton while JB brings a different dimension we can’t count on from Bryant yet.

    Another, even better comparison would be to identify a player you like that gets cut in the next couple of weeks. Will you prefer Moore and JB or that player and JB?

    I have a vision of a decent offensive lineman getting dropped by Phily and if I could trade Moores salary and sign him I could very happily live with JB.

  • steeltown

    Haha too funny, that’s a lot to ponder…

    Ok, well first let me reiterate I would keep them both because im not arguing keeping one or the other, just that we shouldn’t trade Moore.

    But, lets say I had to pick one I still pick Moore, because JB has done nothing in an actual game yet. I really like his potential but he has yet to show anything besides a solid training camp.

    Also the money saved from offing L.Moore would be minimal. I’d be waiting till next offseason to sign C.Allen to an extension so I’d use that money saved to sign a player that becomes available (like an OLineman) heck I’d off Cam Thomas before Lance Moore considering we just resigned Keisel and McCullers and Mauro look like keepers

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I was thinking of trading Thomas and Moore but after last night I think we might need thomas as a nose tackle. I didn’t watch closely but two lineman isn’t going to work as well as I had hoped and McLendon isn’t big enough for the role.

    I think part of my issue with Moore is that I don’t want him as the 3rd WR. I want a better blocker and I want some height in 3 WR sets.

    I also think by the end of the year we end up with JB and Bryant as 3 and 4.

  • Paddy

    You are dead wrong

  • joed32

    Ben missed Wheaton twice.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Was that an answer to one of my two questions or the limit of your thinking on the subject?

  • eric

    What has Brown done in ANY game game in the preseason? DHB has the special teams advantage, home run potential, and at least flashes the ability to make plays.

  • steeltown

    It’s possible.. to that, I’ll add I think by the end of the year McCullers could be #2 NT ahead of Cam Thomas

  • Paddy

    Just an answer to your insult, you must be new one here, learn how to behave

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I’m not new here and if saying your statement is baloney is improper behavior you might have a hard time in comment sections.

    ..or is the fact I said it was cute where I crossed the line?

    Hopefully the fact that I disagreed with you wasn’t the reason you felt insulted.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    That’s not the point. I was complaining that you can’t say JB hasn’t done anything while giving DHB the job for 2 garbage time catches.

    Neither player has done anything yet. people are too desperate to draw conclusions from very little information.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I could see a situation where they cut both DHB and JB. Dri Archer looks like a natural catcher at the WR position and we have Heath who we can split out wide also. Not saying they will cut both but if they did i wouldn’t be too surprised. Brown just hasn’t done anything in the games. Last night was his chance with the ones and he didn’t make any adjustment on the ball that Ben threw to him on the 3rd down play. Next week should be interesting to see the battle for that one last WR spot.

  • BFB

    Felt bad for Moye when he got in. Looked to be running clean routes and getting open but Grad seems to be right side centric. He did finally get a target after lining up on the right but it was a poor throw. Still pulling for the hometown product.

  • Luis Garcia

    Agree with statement DHB moves up.

  • SteveM2

    Also, in both yesterday’s and last week’s game, Grad seemed to be simply throwing the ball high, not accurately, in Moye’s general direction. It’s beginning to look like another NFL team’s going to sneak a good, tall WR away from the Steelers, doesn’t it?

  • SteveM2

    Brandon Boykin, the Eagle’s designated slot defender, was inactive. Therefore, Justin Brown’s first-team opportunity last night was primarily against a rookie, Jaylen Watkins.

  • Steelers@2010

    Bravo! Bravo! Like the article said, lots of questions still about the WR position. DHB? Exactly what has he accomplished? Brown might not be ready for Prime Time, but DHB has had his shot. That team is young, let them learn! They are going to make mistakes people.

  • Michael Parker

    I’ll keep it simple. Justin Brown is pedestrian. No speed, cant get open. Heyward-Bey can make plays, stretch defenses, and can play special teams. Bey will be #5 Receiver.

  • steelster

    Funny, chris carter is in the hall of fame

  • BFB

    I agree. Even on the PS he may be a target. Arizona is always lurking around it seems.
    Ponder this. Steelers keep Tamu and cut Fangupo loose, then draft McCullers this year. McClendon can move over and be a monster DE. Now you have Tamu/McCullers at 345 & 350+? lbs rotating at nose and you have Keisel/McClendon & Hayward/Tuitt (or some combo thereof) as virtually two starting D lines. Still can’t figure the reason beyond the drunk wreck idiocy he committed. Seems reformed now in AZ.
    Sorry, I digress.Hopefully Moye being on the team last season is enough to keep him around. I hope he gets more chances in the next pre season game.